I have wonderful memories growing up on our Pennsylvania farm, and that is largely due to the fact that I grew up under my mother and father’s love, care, and discernment.
Mast Stoltzfus and Anna Zook were out of the ordinary in the fact that they were both older when they came together and got married. Nowadays, it is not unusual for people to wait until their late 20s and early 30s to exchange vows, but back in 1959, this was not the norm. Family and friends were wondering what was taking them so long to find the “right one.”
There isn’t a long list of excuses for that; they just weren’t finished being single. My mother was enjoying her mission service and spending time with her friends. My father spent some time abroad doing some mission work in Morocco before coming home to settle down.
Mast and Anna eventually found each other, and their contrasting personalities quickly became compliments to each other. He was more laid back and quiet, topped off with a good dose of sarcasm and dry humor. She was the outgoing, organized, life of the party and queen of hospitality.
January 1, 1959, became the designated date to come together in holy matrimony in my mother’s home, and their journey together began.
After a few years of driving truck for a feed mill and adding my brother, Dwight, to the family, Mom and Dad settled on Mom’s home farm and took over milking cows and farming the land for Papa Zook in Atglen, Pa. I followed shortly after, and the family was complete.
Watching my parents live out their love for each other was a blessing. I guarantee you that life was not perfect, pristine, or uneventful, but the love I witnessed by far outweighed the eventful times.
There are so many great memories. One that is stamped in my mind is how they started and ended their day. They started the day with prayer, family devotions, and reading the Bible. They ended the day on their knees in prayer. Faith was a huge part of my family upbringing.
Farming was a good choice for my parents as Dad always took the responsibility of being a steward of the animals seriously; he loved and cared for the animals.
Aside from caring for the milking herd and young stock, Dad would also take time for our farm dogs and cats. Many times I saw him take extra care of a litter of kittens if they were sick, making sure they had plenty of warm milk to drink.
He still takes care of calves and kittens, but in more recent years, we have the privilege of his presence on our farm, helping Duane and I take care of our animals.
I also have many great memories of my mother opening up the house and kitchen to others. Being a servant and giving of her time, quilting, and craft gifts, and sharing her home have always been the core of who she is.
Whether she invited guests home from church, asked the family over for a meal, or extended the table for the harvest crew, she loved making meals for visitors. Butter was its own food group in her kitchen, and the food was delicious.
The food from her kitchen is still delicious. She continues to help with our harvest crew if I am out of town, and butter is always in her refrigerator.
One thing I have always admired about my parents is the fact they allow each other the time and space to strengthen their own gifts and talents. They have been using their individual gifts to bless each other and everyone around them for a very long time. They are not the same, but they certainly complement and come together in a beautiful, fun, and encouraging way.
Just like any marriage, my parents have seen and lived through some tough days. They raised me and lived to tell the story. I was not the easiest heifer to corral during my teenage years. They would both testify that challenges have appeared in their marriage on more than one occasion.
But growing together is a beautiful thing, and sitting in the front row to see Mast and Anna do life together has been a priceless gift for my own life as Duane and I manage our farm and family.
The other week, a couple of our employees took Mom and Dad out for fellowship and ice cream. I was not surprised when Susan and Brendon both said, “Your parents are so much fun, we laughed all night.”
I know exactly what that meant. Dad was teasing with his dry humor, Mom was getting him back in her own way, and laughter was passed around the entire evening. I have seen that play out for many years.
Sixty years strong is not an easy task, but a feat I look at with great admiration, respect, and gratitude. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad, you deserve the best.
The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.